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The Nekcsei Lipócz Bible

Created between 1335 and 1340, the Nekcsei Lipócz Bible is one of the world's most important illuminated manuscripts. This guide provides general information as well as related digital and print resources at the Library of Congress.


Page from the Vulgate Latin Bible probably written and decorated in Hungary, known as the Nekcsei-Lipócz Bible ca. 1335-1340? Image 19 of Volume 1. Library of Congress, Rare Book/Special Collections.

The Library of Congress has more than 1,500 special editions of the Bible in more than 150 languages in its Rare Book collections. The Gutenberg Bible, on display in the library's Great Hall, is the most famous item in this collection as it was the first time a book was printed with individual pieces of metal type instead of carving wood blocks for each page, or writing and illustrating each page by hand. The Gutenberg Bible looks remarkable, but its great importance is due to starting the era of mass producing books.

Many other special bibles can also be found in the Library. One of the rare and remarkable items in our collections is the Giant Bible of Mainz, and another one is the beautifully illustrated and illuminated manuscript, known as the Nekcsei-Lipócz Bible. Created in the Kingdom of Hungary in the early 14th century, the nearly 750 vellum leaves (close to 1,500 pages) were later bound into two volumes. According to one of the illustrations in it (the image to the right), it was commissioned as a gift for a church by Demeter Nekcsei, chief lord treasurer of Hungary, who died in 1338. 

These two volumes are among the most remarkable items in the collections of the Library of Congress. It is a complete Bible with vividly colored and beautiful illustrations, and with illuminations using gold paint to make the pages shimmer. The whole work remains remarkably well preserved 700 years after its creation.

The mystery of its whereabouts for the first 500 years of its existence also makes it interesting. The first document that we have about its existence is from the 19th century, when an English collector bought it. We know how much he paid for it, but not from whom he acquired it. The Library of Congress bought it from this collector's estate at the end of the 19th century. It was clear when the Library received it that it was a richly illustrated copy in two volumes (it was bound in England in the 19th century), but it was unknown when it was made or in which workshop. In the early 20th century when art historians were able to compare works by traveling to see different collections, they sent each other black and white photographs, and published articles about their findings, and so they were able to link it to a place and time. Once it was determined that it was made in Hungary, a historian was able to identify the coat of arms in the image which depicts the benefactor and his wife who donated it. According to the drawing they built a church too, and this Bible was most likely made for that church. Unfortunately, we do not know which church the image refers to.

The original can be viewed in the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room, the digitized volumes are available online on the library's website:

If you wish to learn about the style of the illustrations, the style of the written text, or would like to have descriptions for the illustrated pages, there are two books to turn to, one of which is now available online. If you wish to explore what is known about this book's history, and how was it discovered in the 1940s, where was it made and who commissioned it, there is information about that too in the two books mentioned, and in studies listed below on this page. We included in this guide brief descriptive and historical overviews of the Bible that are taken from two publications either published or co-published by the Library of Congress. They are:

  • A Nekcsei-Biblia legszebb lapjai. (The Most Beautiful Pages of the Nekcsei Bible). Budapest: Helikon / Washington: Library of Congress, 1988. Contains 108 p. of facsims. with Hungarian explanatory text on parallel pages. The accompanying booklet entitled The Nekcsei Bible includes the introduction in English, translation of the publisher's foreword, and of the explanatory text entitled Tanulmányok a Nekcsei-Bibliáról which consists of studies by Dercsényi Dezső, Wehli Tünde, and Levárdy Ferenc.

More information is available about the Nekcsei Lipócz Bible in this blog post. In addition, there is a Hungarian language study External about the remarkable life of Demeter (sometimes referred to as Dömötör) Nekcsei of Lipócz written in 1890, before this Bible was linked to him. (If you do not read Hungarian but have access to the ADT External database, then you have easy access to an English translation of the study, as that database provides an option to have all the texts translated). We scanned the article and provide the PDF version of it below:

Other Library of Congress Guides on Bibles and on Hungarian Resources

In addition to this guide on the Nekcsei Lipócz Bible, we have produced other detailed guides on Hungarian resources, and guides to the Library's Bible collection.

The Bible Collection: A Resource Guide from the Rare Book and Special Collections Division

This guide provides contextual information and resources for patrons interested in the Bible Collection, created in 1938 in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

The Gutenberg Bible at the Library of Congress : A Resource Guide

Printed in Mainz, Germany in 1454/1455 by Johannes Gutenberg and Johannes Fust, the Gutenberg Bible is the first large-format typographic bible produced in Europe. This guide provides digital and printed resources from the Library of Congress Collections.

The Giant Bible of Mainz : A Resource Guide

Created between April 4, 1452 and July 9, 1453, the Giant Bible of Mainz is one of the world's most important illuminated manuscripts. This guide provides general information as well as related digital and print resources at the Library of Congress.

American Folklife Center Collections: Hungary

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting Hungarian expressive culture in Hungary and the United States in the collections of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

Franz Liszt: A Guide to Resources at the Library of Congress

One of the most popular and influential composers of the 19th century, Franz Liszt and his music are well represented in the Music Division's print, manuscript, and digital collections.

Hungarian Newspapers at the Library of Congress

This guide to Hungarian newspapers at the Library of Congress includes titles published within Hungary, regardless of language, as well as in Hungarian published abroad. it provides information about print, microfilm, and digitized issues.

Guide to Law Online: Hungary

This guide, prepared by the Law Library of Congress, includes links to free online resources regarding the country of Hungary, focusing on its constitution; executive, legislative and judicial branches; legal guides; and general sources.

Hungary: Address and Telephone Directories

Telephone and address directories are used by genealogists and historians to identify people and businesses from a particular place and era. This guide lists uncataloged directories from Hungary in the Library of Congress collection.

Cold War Military Archives from Hungary, Poland, and Romania

This guide provides indexes to the Library of Congress microfilm collections of formerly classified records from the military archives of Hungary, Poland and Romania. Also includes papers from the conference "Cold War Archives in the Decade of Openness"